Millennials Embrace Car Ownership, Use Rental Cars as Extended Test Drives

buying a car

ST. LOUIS--Feb. 5, 2014: A new Enterprise Holdings survey* of car renter and owner preferences has found that millennials have a strong desire to hit the road in their very own vehicles. Contrary to the growing notion that younger Americans are less interested in car ownership, data from the Enterprise survey found that 79 percent of 25-34 year olds (millennials) consider owning a car "extremely important" to accomplishing daily work/life tasks – a percentage that was very consistent with the older age groups surveyed.

Enterprise Holdings – the owner and operator of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands – also asked its car rental customers questions about the impact of a positive rental experience on their perceptions of specific makes or models. Overall, most customers (71 percent) reported that a positive experience renting a certain car changed their perception of that specific car make or model; of note, with millennials, that percentage skyrocketed to 88 percent.

"Millennial respondents were particularly influenced by the rental experience, indicating that car rental is one of the best ways to introduce an automotive brand to the next generation of new car buyers," Kurt Kohler, senior vice president, acquisition and remarketing, Enterprise Holdings.

Other significant survey findings include the following:

With the average age of a passenger vehicle topping 11 years, many millennial respondents (68 percent) reported first experiencing new automotive technology through car rentals – more than any other way. Renters aren't just picking any car off the lot when they arrive at the rental facility. They are choosing vehicles they want to be seen driving. A total of 57 percent of 25-34 year olds agreed that choice of a rental car make and model says a lot about them … their style, personality and values. Forty-six percent of men and 48 percent of women agreed. Further, 53 percent of 25-34 year olds said they select a rental car based on the desire to try something new. When looking at all respondents, over one-third of customers said they wanted to rent something "completely different" than what they drive at home. Millennial respondents were motivated by renting a car, with 28 percent reporting that a rental experience triggered the decision to look for a new car to buy.

Overall, survey respondents reported that renting a vehicle made them more interested in purchasing it. More than half (58 percent) of the customers report that they have considered a car to purchase based on renting it. This was particularly true with Hispanic respondents, 65 percent of whom indicated that, when buying a car, they considered a make or model they had rented.

The rental experience has a particularly strong impact on women. In fact, one in four (27 percent) female respondents under age 45 reported that renting a car prompted them to start shopping for a new car. Likewise, African Americans were motivated by renting a car, with 34 percent reporting that a rental experience triggered the decision to look for a new car to buy. In the general population, one in five reported that a rental experience led them to start the car-shopping process.

Gas mileage also weighs heavily in the choice of rental vehicle, particularly for women. Nearly half (49 percent) of women selected good gas mileage as the top feature that a rental car should have.

*Survey Methodology Enterprise Holdings deployed three Web-based surveys in Q3 and Q4 2013, each crafted to address various driver and car rental related topics. The data was gathered from randomly chosen members of Enterprise's customer rental database and included customers of its Alamo, National and Enterprise Rent-A-Car brands. A total of 1,363 surveys were completed.

Participants were screened for three key attributes: must have rented a car at least one time in the last six months; must currently own a car; and must be at least 25 years old.

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